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AS Africell places premium on education…

500 to Receive Functional Literacy Skills

February 11, 2021

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As part of their continuous support towards human capital development in the country, Africell Sierra Leone has on Monday 8th February 2021 signed a Memorandum of Understating with JobSearch which seeks to teach functional literacy skills to 250 female traders and domestic workers, 125 persons with disabilities and 125 youth within the Freetown Municipality using a mobile phone. The signing event took place at the American Corner on Bathurst Street in Freetown.

In his address during the signing, Managing Director for Africell SL, Shadi Gerjawi said that the signing of the MOU with JobSearch shows their commitment to be in line with the Africa Literacy Project, adding that the project is targeting 500 market women, youth and persons with disabilities in Freetown with the aim is to teach functional literacy skills by leveraging on the existing mobile technology to scale literacy projects across Africa.

“Sadly, the data provided shows Sierra Leone is among the countries in the world with the lowest adult literacy rate. According to the most recent data by World Bank over 50% of the population are illiterate and according to UNESCO report in 2018, 58% of adult women were recorded as illiterate,” he lamented.

He revealed that Africell, as the leading mobile operator in Sierra Leone, is also pleased to be partnering with JobSearch and Freetown City Council to roll out the pilot phase of the project by contributing to the education and learning of these women, young people and people living with disabilities adding that Africell had and will continue to support projects initiated by Sierra Leoneans for Sierra Leone.

He said that their Support to this project will be in the following forms: Data (Mb), Human Resource, Equipment, Advertising and Media Space.

On data, he said, Africell will provide up to 1,000GB worth of data to participants and coaches as and when required and on Human Resource Africell shall from their HR Department provide up to 10 employees to volunteer as coaches for the pilot. On Equipment, Africell shall donate 214 mobile phones and free SIM cards for all non- Africell participants for the Pilot Programme and finally on Media Space Africell through AfriRadio shall grant access to the project for media appearances and free promotion on AfriRadio based on the available existing programs schedule, Africell will also base on schedules postings; make available their social media pages to promote all activities relating to the programmes and events of the project etc.

On her part, Founder and Managing Director of JobSearch, Edleen Elba speaking briefly about the Africa Literacy Project, with particular emphasis on the pilot Programme, disclosing that 213 million is the number of illiterate people in Sub-Saharan Africa, as part of the continent reported to have one of the world’s lowest literacy rates, adding that according to UNESCO, literacy is defined as one’s ability to read and write a short simple statement about their everyday life.

Edleen Elba disclosed that in 2018, the average world literacy rate was 86%, while Sub-Saharan Africa’s was just 67% and that Nigeria has the largest proportion of illiterate people in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 41 million people unable to read and write furthering that Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of 43%, with 58% of the male population being literate, compared to 42% of the female population with 63% of persons with disabilities have never attended school.

She pointed out that this is the problem The Africa Literacy Project seeks to solve stating that the Africa Literacy Project is a partnership between Platform Capital Group and JobSearch that collaborates with Governments, literacy centres, private sector organizations, development partners and TVET providers to offer literacy courses en masse to vulnerable social groups.

She stated that the Africa Literacy Project’s goal is to teach functional literacy skills to 100 million Sub-Saharan Africans by 2030 and their pilot program, funded by Diatom Impact, in partnership with Freetown City Council and Africell seeks to teach functional literacy skills to 250 female traders and domestic workers, 125 persons with disabilities and 125 youth in Freetown, using a mobile phone. Training will be delivered using Cell-Ed’s unique technology (a voice and text-based app) that offers 3-5-minute micro- modules via SMS, app and WhatsApp.

“For our pilot, we will use only WhatsApp. Content will introduce learners to the alphabet, phonetics, numbers, reading and writing skills, life skills and COVID-19. The pilot was launched on International Literacy Day, 8 September 2020, after which Cell-Ed completed development of the Introduction to the English Alphabet course for us,” she revealed.

She added that the Freetown City Council collected data from interested youth living in Susan’s Bay, female traders at three markets – Krootown Road, Lumley and Congo Water, and persons living with disabilities within the United Polio Brothers and Sisters Association Inclusive Training Centre, PWD Disabled Home and Cotton Tree Disables Organization.

She added that while the pilot is ongoing, they will use the feedback to design follow-up projects and seek more funding, to enable them include more learners across the country and the continent.

Project Lead, Freetown City Council, Salieu Kanu expressed appreciation for the partnership, adding that in 2019 the Mayor of Freetown launched Transform Freetown priorities were grouped within four clusters: Resilience, Human Development, Healthy City and Urban Mobility of which he said Human Capital Development drives into this functional literacy skill.

He assured them that as a Council they will support the project in order to impact the lives of Sierra Leoneans.